Instructional Designers Can Do What? Forming a Partnership for Online Program Development

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This Discovery Session focuses on the collaborative process of designing a new online program. We will discuss ways you can utilize resources at your institution, including instructional designers and collaborative tools, to create and deploy an online program from the development of syllabi and program outcomes to individual course design.


Amy Murzyn is the Director of Special Education programs and Associate Professor of Special Education at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. In that position, she teaches online, hybrid and face-to-face courses in graduate and undergraduate teacher preparation programs, as well as the Masters of Education program. Her work also includes program and curriculum development for the Online Graduate Special Education Licensure program and Special Education minor.

Extended Abstract

This presentation focuses on the collaborative process of a faculty lead and Instructional Designer (ID) in constructing a new online program. The Discovery Session will encompass the following learning outcomes for participants:

1.       Define the role and value of an Instructional Designer when starting a new online program

2.       Discover the importance of developing a relationship of trust and communication between the faculty and instructional designer

3.       Identify key resources for developing a project management plan and tools available

4.       Discuss the relevance and importance of implementing a feedback loop

Throughout the program development process, collaboration occurred at many levels, beginning at a macro level with the overall program design, down to a micro level at course project design. According to the Instructional Design in Higher Education Report (Online Learning Consortium, 2016), the biggest struggle identified by instructional designers is the ability to collaborate with faculty. There is a misconception surrounding the role of instructional designers and the value they provide when working in higher education (Online Learning Consortium, 2016; Miller & Stein, 2016). In the case of the development of this fully online program, the instructional designer (ID) provided support and input specific to course design within the Learning Management System to ensure a consistent look and feel. The ID also provided input at the program level, first in the development of the syllabi, and then at the course level, including identifying and clarifying measurable learning objectives, and the alignment of learning objectives to assessments (Hirumi, 2014; Miller & Stein, 2016). Finally, the ID highlighted research based best practices and provided guidance and support related to creating meaningful online learning activities that promote student engagement (Hirumi, 2014; Online Learning Consortium, 2016; Miller & Stein, 2016) and mastery of the course and program outcomes.

Taking the time to build a cooperative relationship between faculty and the ID is essential for the success of course development. The Instructional Design in Higher Education Report (Online Learning Consortium, 2016) identified faculty resistance to new pedagogies as a primary barrier to the collaborative process. In this setting, the ID provided ongoing and formative feedback specific to online learning pedagogies. The partnership had shared goals and the desire to create an engaging and rigorous program, an interdependence of the faculty and ID roles at the College and complementary skills specific to teaching and learning, including a need to complete tasks in an organized fashion, and specific content knowledge and pedagogy. The team had shared accountability for creation of the program, and a reliance on each other that extended to course development and revisions (Kayser, 2011). The lead faculty and ID demonstrated character traits that enhanced the collaborative relationship, including, “acting toward each other in honorable ways that justify and enhance team-wide mutual trust” (Kayser, 2011, p. 53). Each team member demonstrated commitment to the project through their investment of time, energy and use of authentic communication that was honest, non-judgemental, and prompt.

Several key factors were necessary in developing a successful project management plan, including utilizing collaborative tools, frequent meetings and meeting timelines (Kayser, 2011).  The lead faculty and ID used a variety of tools for synchronous and asynchronous communication and collaboration. The ID created course templates in Google Docs to allow for asynchronous collaboration. The lead faculty input content; the ID provided feedback and asked questions specific to content and pedagogy, and transferred information to the course management shells. The lead faculty and ID met bi-weekly via Zoom and face to face to problem solve, discuss course and program progress, and share new interactive tools. Finally, the team created a shared timeline and set specific deadlines for task and course completion, as part of the need for shared accountability (Kayser, 2011).

Lead faculty and the ID created feedback loops at multiple levels to ensure program integrity. Stakeholders were involved in providing feedback for: program structure, syllabi development, assessment alignment and shell creation. This was done synchronously and asynchronously through face to face meetings and using collaborative tools, including Google Docs and Google Forms. Feedback from stakeholders was used to clarify program and course goals, clarity of syllabi, alignment of assessments to course and program outcomes and clarity of content and navigation within the course management system. The team also put into place processes to allow a continuous student feedback loop and an instructor feedback loop to support program improvement and quality assurance (Watson, 2003).


Hirium, A. (Ed.) (2014). Grounded designs for online and hybrid learning: Design fundamentals. International         Society for Technology in Education. Eugene, Oregon.

Kayser, T. (2011). Six ingredients for collaborative partnerships. Leader To Leader, 2011(61), 48-55.                          doi:10.1002/ltl.480

Miller, S. & Steinm G. (2016). Finding our voice: Instructional designers in higher education. Educausereview.        Retrieved from

Online Learning Consortium (2016). Instructional design in higher education report. Newburyport, MA.

Watson, S. (2003) Closing the feedback loop: Ensuring effective action from student feedback. Tertiary                       Education and Management, 9(2), 145-157. Retrieved from